First Drive - GWM Ora Funky Cat

Chinese automaker GWM is back in the UK with its Ora Funky Cat, a compact EV that impresses in unexpected ways.

The First Drive Verdict: 4.1

You may remember GWM being in the UK a number of years ago with its Steed pick-up. Well the Chinese automaker that was founded back in 1984 is back and it's very different. In fact, it doesn't even really have the same name anymore, these days it has a number of sub-brands, one of which is Ora, its new all-electric car range.

This is its first model, the Ora Funky Cat, more specifically, the First Edition. Going on sale in the UK later this month, it's priced at £31,995 on the road, although you'll be able to PCP it directly from the distributor, International Motors (IM) for around £399 a month. IM is hoping to sell around about 5,000 in 2023, not quite the same numbers as rivals like the Volkswagen ID3 or the MG4 but read on and you’ll find that this is not the same sort of car, not at all.


DESIGN - 4.0 out of 5

We won’t blame you if you can see a number of design similarities with other brands, both on the outside and the inside. The most obvious in the exterior is a comparison with Porsche, which perhaps isn’t surprising because Ora’s head of design is former Porsche designer Emanuel Derta. Slap a Porsche badge on the front and you could easily imagine it’s come out of Stuttgart, but the interior looks like it’s come from another Volkswagen Group company in Crewe. That’s because inside it all feels just a bit Bentley, right down to the knurled rotary dial for the gear changer and the exquisite quilting on the door trims. To confuse you even more the buttons on the centre console look and feel rather Mini. We could get all judgemental about these various similarities but we won’t because the fact is it’s really nice, all posh and luxurious. The interior is way better than anything in its main rivals and it’s not short on practicality either.

PRACTICALITY - 4.0 out of 5

We have only spent a couple of hours with the car so far, but it seems to tick the practicality box with good, strong materials and plenty of boot space at 228 litres, enough for a couple of suitcases, the average buggy or the monthly shop. There's lots of head and legroom too, a huge amount in fact. It is quite a tall car at 1,603mm and no adult with the exception of an NBA basketball player is going to find their head touching the roof. It’s not a crossover though, more of a rather large hatchback.

When it comes to the practicality of driving range, Ora claims its 45.39kWh (net) battery will enable it to travel up to 192 miles between charges but we need to spend more time with it to see how close we can get to that number. It’ll charge from 15-80% on a 6.6kW home charger in 5.5 hours, a little over three hours on an 11kW charger and if you plug it into a 100kW DC public charger then you can get that 80% charge in 42 minutes with a maximum charging rate of 64kW. It connects to any CCS or Type 2 charger and comes with a three-pin cable to snail-charge at home. 

TECH - 5.0 out of 5

There’s tech, tech and then even more tech in the Funky Cat. It has two digital screens, one for the instrument cluster and one for the infotainment system, then a number of buttons with nice haptic feedback on the steering wheel, a wireless charging pad and USB ports. We found the touchscreen infotainment system needed us to stretch a bit from our driving position, but it all seems fairly intuitive although it was a bit slow to react on multiple occasions. Alternatively you can say "Hey Ora" and you can talk to your car, which is why the automaker calls the Funky Cat a “car-panion” - yes, even the marketing people agree that’s a bit cheesy. 

It's got over-the-air updates and a whole load of advanced driver assistance systems including emergency braking, curve detection, adaptive cruise control and rear cross traffic alert and brake, all of which helped it to get a five star Euro NCAP safety rating. There's a connected app and it has facial recognition which allows the car to know when you're not paying attention to the road and in a very polite voice say, “please pay attention to the road”. She also tells you if you're breaking the speed limit but we obviously didn’t experience that ourselves.

The nice thing is that all the tech is really well integrated into the luxurious design, so it doesn’t stick out or feel like too much. 

DRIVE -  3.5 out of 5

On the road, the Funky Cat accelerates in a very linear way. There’s none of the rapid electric car acceleration, instead it’s all well composed, although occasionally we did experience a bit of wheel spin in corners as the motor pushed out its full 250Nm of torque. The driving position is good, but steering feedback isn't fantastic and honestly we would reduce the diameter of the steering wheel by an inch, it does feel a bit Volvo C30. The controls are all easy to use and visibility is pretty good too. 

Its character feels very much like an all-rounder, as though it's engineered as an urban vehicle, but capable of giving you a comfortable long distance ride. That ride is fairly firm on occasion, but no more than many of its EV rivals. The driving range also seemed accurate. 

It’s certainly not Porsche-like in its performance, but nor is it a Beetle, instead it is very comfortable, ergonomically well designed and the Funky Cat delivered a good driving experience on back roads and motorways. It’s all the electric car most town folk are going to need.

VERDICT - 4.1 out of 5

So is it as funky as its name suggests? Well, on first impression yes. It’s a great-looking car that has the most luxurious interior of anything in its segment, even more luxurious than many premium models. The problem is its premium price, we were expecting it to be the new affordable EV with a price tag in the mid 20s. However, IM told us that they have gone for the highest specification model, to which they’ve then added a couple of First Edition badges and floor mats. There are lower spec models available from the factory in China, so could we see a cheaper version to take on the lower spec MG4? Maybe, although IM say for now they are going up against the Volkswagen ID3, Cupra Born, Hyundai Kona and the Renault Megane E-Tech.

As well as the prospect of some cheaper models, there could be one with a larger 63kWh battery and a GT version. We had a look at the GT at IM’s office and it seems to just have cosmetic bits, like red wheel inserts, a spoiler and a slightly sportier interior. Even IM were unsure if there are any performance enhancements so we’ll have to wait and see. There will also be a larger Ora Cat, unveiled recently at the Paris Motor Show. It’s a bit of a mishmash in the exterior design department and something clearly went awry, but inside it also has a luxury look to it. Even GWM aren’t sure what it is, so they haven’t given it a name yet.

That’s for another day, for now the Funky Cat is out of the bag and its looks are refreshing, its interior outstanding and it delivers a comfortable and composed drive. It might not have the price we were expecting but its style and class make it a bit of a top cat.


Model driven: Ora Funky Cat First Edition

Price: £31,995

Battery: 45.39kWh net (48kWh gross)

Transmission: Single speed automatic

Power: 171hp

Torque: 250Nm

0-62mph: 8.3 seconds

Top speed: 99mph

Driving range: 192 miles

Combined consumption: 3.7mi/kWh

CO2 emissions: 0g/km



Written by Mark Smyth